We are all very familiar with New York City’s Times Square New Years Eve celebration, but in a city so large, that is definitely not the only way to ring in the New Year! Why not ring in the New Year the healthy way by running 4 miles thru Central Park? That’s exactly what I did this year!
For years I have had the NYRR Midnight Run on my race bucket list. Back in mid November, probably less than 2 weeks before we even heard of the Omicron variant of covid that would rapidly spread throughout the world, I decided that this would be a great year to finally check this race off the bucket list! I was lucky enough to find a hotel room for the night where I could use my Hilton points (which was great since most hotels were going for $600 a night plus due to New Years Eve) and got a cheap train ticket there from Boston. It was like it was meant to be!
Well then comes December and covid cases start to increase in the US, starting with New York City where they were out of control, causing many a breakthrough case in the vaccinated, hours long lines for testing (they seem to have testing on every corner in busier parts of the city!) and record breaking case numbers. I went back and forth on whether it was a good idea to go or not. As it got closer, the weather forecast called for temps in the 50s, so I knew I could at least not be too uncomfortable eating meals outdoors and since I live alone and work from home and plan to head home and not go anywhere or see anyone else for a couple of weeks, I figured, I would just mask up and go (fingers crossed a few days from now I don’t regret this decision!)
I took the train down to NYC from Boston on Friday morning, arriving just before 2pm. I got one of the many little warm ups for the race that day taking the long walk from Penn Station uptown to my hotel on 52nd Street. After I checked into the hotel, I met up with a friend and we walked over to the NYRR Runcenter to pick up my race bib. For those that aren’t familiar with NYRR, they are a major race director in New York City that hold numerous races throughout the year including the famous New York City Marathon each November. I have ran numerous races with them as I ran the 5 borough series in 2016-17, which included the Brooklyn Half Marathon, Queens 10K, Bronx 10 Miler, Staten Island Half Marathon and the New York City Half Marathon. Their races are incredibly well run which is one of the reasons the Midnight Run had been on my bucket list. While picking up my bib, they checked my vaccine card as vaccination is now required to run any NYRR races.
After that we headed to the Upper West Side for dinner and margaritas (need to carb load before a race right). Since it was a beautiful evening with temps in the 50s and no wind, it was rather comfortable eating outside. After dinner, we headed over to Levain Bakery, which is known to have “New York’s Most Famous Cookies” I bought one of their Chocolate Chip Walnut cookies to bring back to the hotel as a post race treat. I of course couldn’t resist having half of it before I left for the race, more carb loading, right? Haha! It was definitely delicious, so make sure to check out one of their locations next time you are in New York City!
After relaxing at the hotel for a bit, it was time to head over to Central Park. There were two entrances into the park for runners, from the east and west side at 72nd Street. At the entrance, they checked for your bib as only runners and guests (each runner was permitted one guest) were allowed in. Runners were given wrist bands at bib pickup for the their guest, the guest were required to show their id and vaccination card to be let in.
Once you are in the park, there was a large area for runners to gather while being able to remain distanced. They had corrals lettered A to L for runners based on their estimated finish time. I of course was back in L, which was a bit strange, it’s been a minute since I’ve been in the very last corral for a race. The corrals closed at 11:50pm. As the time got closer to midnight, the excitement grew and just before the race started they had a countdown and fireworks at midnight. It was such a fun way to start the race and being in that final corral worked to my advantage as I was then able to enjoy more of the fireworks before running.
Check out the fireworks below:
The fireworks lasted a good 20 minutes, I remember thinking at mile one, “wow they are still going off” This would definitely be a good fireworks show for any guests you bring with you to the race.
The route started going east on 72nd and then headed north and followed the inner loop in Central Park. If you have ever been to Central Park, you know that it’s a very popular place to run, but you may not notice that it’s not flat until you actually run it. The first time I ran in Central Park was when I ran the NYC Half Marathon in 2017 and I was so surprised at how hilly it was! The Midnight Run started right off with a hill of course! But the hills are rolling, so there was plenty of great downhill portions as well.
Around the two mile point the course went west and then headed south again back to 72nd Street. The course was really great and I was actually very happy at how well lit it was. I have a hard time seeing in the dark, so I was grateful that there were plenty of lights along the course.
Not only did they have a water stop on the race course, there was also a sparkling cider stop as well. During the race there were people dressed up with 2022 glasses, new years hats and even some people wearing fancy dresses over their regular running tights. The weather could not have been more perfect. Who would have thought it would be 51 degrees at midnight in December in New York? On a normal year it’s usually at least a good 20 degrees colder than that. I even had to take my running jacket off a half mile into the races I was so warm.
At the end of the race, they gave out water, bagels and fruit with plenty of room in the park to enjoy the post race food while keeping distanced.
This was really a perfect way to ring in the new year, especially as someone who is older and isn’t interested in partying in the new year. After the race I had an almost mile and a half walk back to my hotel. Earlier in the day I was a little nervous about walking this far alone at 1am, but thankfully there were so many people out and about and so many cops all over the streets of New York, that I felt incredibly safe.
One of the really great things about heading to New York City for this race is that the holiday season is so magical in New York City!
I’ve been to New York during the holiday season quite a lot, but it’s been a number of years since I’ve been there during this time and I had definitely forgot just how magical it is. There are Christmas trees and holiday decorations everywhere! Check out my post on the Holiday Season in the Big Apple to learn more about all there is to see in New York City during the holidays.
While running my 4 miles to start the new year, 15 thousand people were packed into Times Square for the first time since 2020 (all fully vaxxed and masked) ringing in the New Year by seeing the ball drop at midnight. Even pre-covid, I don’t think that would be something I would enjoy but I definitely enjoyed heading over to Times Square the following afternoon and seeing the ball and the 2022 digital signs.
Even though I was hesitant to head to New York City during the Omicron surge, I am definitely glad I did. The race was a perfect way to ring in the new year and definitely beat sitting at home alone on the couch. If you ever have the option to run this race, I highly recommend it.
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